Nicholas F. Callaway
Medium: Pigmented plaster
Dimensions: 25 x 18 x 18 cm · 10 x 7 x 7 in
The artist originally conceived this piece as part of a broader research project called “The Liberal Arts.” What began as the creation of an imaginary civilization, eventually evolved into a means of processing, on a non-rational basis, many of the concepts and images absorbed during the course of the artist’s studies of linguistics and religion at a small liberal arts college in the United States.
The piece was sculpted shortly after leaving Lebanon at the height of the Syrian Civil War, clearly drawing on the brutality of that situation in its raw and gruesome appearance. Partially operating in the realms of fantasy and sci-fi aesthetic, the shrivelled vampire-like head, with its twisted grimace and gilt, jagged denture, may well recall a facsimile of an 80s B horror movie prop. It successfully manages to condense the horrors and volatility of a turbulent political period into a single, dramatic icon: the severed head of a deposed ruler.
As it draws upon both the historical and ritualistic meaning of decapitation, the head becomes a stark symbol of power transferral between contended political regimes. Thus, it prompts the viewer to consider the relative concepts of moral righteousness and the legitimate use of violence, whilst simultaneously inciting a morbid attraction within us, such as the one professed en masse for Marie Tussaud’s waxworks of guillotined aristocrats, many of which were paraded around the streets as brutal signifiers of the abolishment of power during the Revolution.